Monday, June 21, 2004

Locations and Loans 

Manager had a bit of a scare - the bank had a computer glitch and lost a sizeable sum of money. It was well worth the fee to get a printout of her account from the bank and find the error. It was a computer error, and they corrected it, but for a while there, she had a negative balance.

"Nother thing for folks to watch when they start a business - keep a really close eye on your bank account - don't wait for statements to come in each month. Check your account balance at least weekly, and if anything seems even remotely out-of-line, pounce on it right away. Correcting it before it reaches the stage of bouncing payments is a lot easier than cleaning up after things start bouncing.

That scare aside, S., the landlord from the old Spaghetti Factory really wants to rent property to us. He's now come up with an old theater, which seems, on the outside, to be in better shape than the old Spaghetti Factory. There are two other businesses in the same building.

However, it's located on a one-way street, hard to find, and the traffic count is very low. It is low-cost ($1.00 a square foot), in the Empowerment Zone, has a shared, but large, parking lot.

Manager and I both feel the location is too difficult to find. We had a hard time finding it, and I drive that area almost daily. Even with the address and the cross street, we still didn't find it on the first pass. With the one-way streets, it was difficult to return to it after missing it. It took 3 tries to actually locate it - not an experience we want for our customers.

Another downside for this location is that the landlord is once again renting it "as is", meaning we're responsible for all of the renovations and repairs. He's not offering any free months while we do those repairs, and it looks as if he will be a very "hands off" landlord. This might be good if we weren't facing the expenses of start-up, which, for a bakery, is very high.

C.'s place, while far more expensive ($6.00 a square foot), is in a prime location, easy to find, with a co-operative and involved landlord. He's willing to work with us in creating what we need, and he wants to act as a mentor. We feel the increased sales from the much better location will compensate for the higher rent.

And, honestly? The rent is still below current market prices. It is within our affordability range. Most business property rents for between $12 and $20 a square foot, making C.'s place, ay $6.00 a square foot quite reasonable.

Another plus for C.'s place is that it is large enough, and with wall space enough, to allow us to use the Cracked Cauldron as a commission art gallery, benefitting not only us in helping defray operating expenses, but helping artists make more sales and gain wider recognition.

We like win-win solutions.

Another decided plus for C.'s place is that it is large enough we can start sooner on our homeless resource center - we can designate a room with information about it, both to bring the problem of the changing face of homelessness to people who otherwise wouldn't know about the problem, and to provide help to those who are caught in the loop of homelessness.

Our experience of homelessness back then is more typical of homelessness now (employed, with support, but no place to actually live) than it ever was of what the average person percieves as homeless. While many people who are homeless are still mentally incapable of caring for themselves, and while many are also homeless because of criminal activity, and a few are homeless because they choose to be, an increasing number of homeless are so for other reasons.

There are the families that lose their home because of a critical illness in the family. Many people live from paycheck to paycheck, and are one, at most two, paychecks from being homeless. A combination of factors keep them on the edge. Credit card debt, impulse buying rather than serious shopping, poor resource management, and living just above what they can easily afford keeps them on that brink.

These are the people who live comfortable-seeming middle class lives,a nd hte ones who flounder the worst when faced with sudden homelessness. They are also the very people for whom social services is lacking. They have an education, and very often have decent paying jobs. They were simply overwhelmed To receive any kind of social services help, they will have to give up their jobs. If they are married, often social services won't help, because they focus on single parents, not couples.

Most of the time, these people have only modest needs, among which is a re-education into resource management.

With our homeless resource center, we will hopefully not only help people who find themselves homeless, but even prevent people from getting there.

Manager is speaking today to the bank about finally getting the loan process started, as the attorney finally provided us with our incorporation papers. I'm sorry we had to resort to filing a formal complaint over his behavior, but I'm not sorry that we did it. Perhaps he will think twice before trying to rip off his next client.

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